Sunday 26 July 2015


  1. The gang members identify themselves by tattooing their little finger on the right hand completely black.
  2. When in their territory the gang lookouts use bird calls to identify police and enemy gang members, these change frequently.
  3. The gangs headquarters is in another district, and they use black birds baked in pies as message runners.
  4. The majority of money the gang makes through the sale of white lotus is funnelled into political donations through a series of front businesses.
  5. The gang is run by two brothers, one of which is attempting to establish himself in a legitimate printing business empire.
  6. Gang members have stashes located in local vacant properties, these rotate every 1d4 days.
  7. The gang use organised giant turtle jousting events as a cover to meet rival gangsters and players for parle.
  8. Members play a dare based game that involves drinking increasingly potent vials of poison.
  9. The gangs main gig is transporting huge sums of illicit valuables sown into counterfeit lederhosen.
  10. The gang bribe the pixies and faeries who live beneath the streets to regularly change the direction of signposts they maintain, to throw off anyone not familiar with their territory during critical moments.

Thursday 23 July 2015


Check out +Patrick Stuart 's OSR Doctor class, his g+ thread inspired  this, a thing what I done drew :

Damage Dice Roller Rules Yeah!

All damage dice should be rolled on the table, if you take 1/4 your total hitpoints in an area then you take disadvantage on all rolls that utilise that body part. Crit dice always roll maximum, but the location they land in ceases to work, and you will bleed to death in the number of rounds as indicated on the die unless the wound is staunched (cost an action or something). If of course if you can land a crit die on the head - its game over.

This is a5 size, I considered a4 but thought it might be a bit big? I like the idea of the head being a smaller target and rewarding a steady calculated die drop.

You could make a bunch for different creatures - a beholder would be cray cray.

Monday 20 July 2015

Some things Witch.

  1. Every night a witch transformed into a beautiful black horse visits a virgin girl, she is hypnotising her, making secretly and slowly poison her father.
  2. A witch has lost her giant son, and is looking for people to help her find him.
  3. A witch travels the country side carving deep runes and markings into stones with her finger.
  4. The head of a beheaded witch will repair if rubbed with salt then covered in soil dug under a full moon.
  5. Fishermen know the location of a witch who will sail to the bottom of the ocean for a fee.
  6. A witch asks passers-by to remove a four leaf clover under her chair, she cannot get up whilst it is there, and was tricked into sitting down.
  7. A midwife is a witch maintains perpetual youth by sucking blood from the navals of infants - not killing them so never discovered.
  8. A witch transform her lovers into small woodland animals.
  9. A witch's curse causes a young ruffian to mew like a kitten an neigh like a horse.
  10. A witch terrorises a group of spinning lady's for being lazy, by hexing them with warts and grey hair.

art by thomas evers

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Lockpicking as a skill check is dull as fuck.

The title sufficiently illustrates my thoughts on the subject - So here's my work around:

Rather than resorting to a simplistic test of abilities for picking a lock, an alternative is to play a small dice game to determine success, Assuming the character has the correct tools and time - do the following :

  • Roll 5d6, one at a time. A player may re-roll each of these die once as they roll them (apart from 1’s). They are then 'held' in place.
  • Each die represents a tumbler in the lock, rolling a 1 indicates the tumbler has 'frozen'.
  • Once all die have been rolled and are 'held', a player me re-roll 3 die of his choice, 1’s cannot be re-rolled.
  • Total the 5 dice (ignoring 6’s) the score is compared to the locks difficulty number
  • 6's indicate a 'loose tumbler' therefore not contributing to the unlocking of the mechanism.

A simple lock would have a difficulty number of 6, a sturdy lock would be 10, a reinforced castle lock 15, and technology beyond our understanding is 20. 25 is a god-lock.

Disclaimer : I understand that these rules more than likely do not follow the physics of actual lockpicking, but that is weighed against me-not-giving-a-shit and wanting a fun little dice game to replace a boring skill check and inject some drama/excitement at the table. So there.


Sunday 12 July 2015

Roll Below Record Sheet

Here's the record sheet for the ruleset i'm working on, dubbed 'Roll Below'. I've made good writing progress, i'm at 10 pages of condensed but playable rules - but still lots to do. Click to make bigger -

How to End Awkward Handwaving.

So I started watching the WoTc staffers play through the Temple of Elemental Evil, the videos well done, they look like their having fun so all round good effort. I think its important to record yourself and watch other Referee's at work, if you can remain impartial to tone and content you can learn a lot of things. Skip to about 9 minutes in. 

Mearl's starts asking his players to narrate something they did during a small road trip, and you can feel the energy slump in the room, players staring blanking thinking "Shit, what do I say?" they don't know the parameters they can operate inside of. They don't yet feel at home in the world, so how do they impose themselves on it for maximum-fun-time-effect?

And i'm sure this is a trick most of us have tried at one stage or another, I know i've done it before and its met with limited success. There's always moment were peoples mouth goldfish as they have no fucking clue what to say. And I've always found that a little uncomfortable, disturbing the vibe around the table - 'tis better to keep things flowing I think. How do we do that? Grains of sand is how.

I've talked about the idea of grains of sand before, small story seeds being much more useful than a blank slate or constraining campaign background. Give someone a grain of sand and they can turn it into an oyster.

So when Mearl's ask his players to narrate something that happened, really he should be telling them what happened, but asking how they handled it. Your'e allowing the player the power to create fiction and hand wave all the action, tell their story - but giving them a framework to build on. Here's some examples of things he should have asked :

  • Someone in a position of authority is rude to you.
  • Someone in dire need asks for charity.
  • Someone offers you something stolen.
  • You beat someone at a game and they get angry.
  • People are gossiping but they don't know you overheard.
  • An unexpected terrain feature impede's your progress.
  • A travelling companion falls gravely ill. 
  • The weather threatens to spoil your rations and possessions.
  • You become separated from the group.
  • What do you say to the pompous man being horrible to his staff?
  • What do you do when you find someone lost possessions? 

Also asking 'what do you do?', 'what do you say?' etc, can spark an initial burst of creative propulsion. They have to think of something, but your giving them a very definite yet broad starting point. Then just hand-wave the rest. If they beat someone up, don't roll dice, just accept it and move on. I'd also argue that its important to frame the conversation in the past tense. These are things that have happened, decisions already made. Not things happening right now, they are by default already part of the fiction not current events.

I'd be grateful for any other things to challenge players with during hand waving moments, so drop them in the comments - 'Till next time dorks.

Thursday 9 July 2015

If your advice is shitty, you will be told - and playing d&d with kids.

So I got into a small e-beef yesterday, I'll withhold names so stupid people aren't made to feel stupider. But the exchange sparked a strong reaction in me and I wanted to parse that and hopefully use it to create something positive.

The topic was "...wondering if any of you could offer any advice for running games for children of varying ages " 

To  which  I  responded "Top tip: Say yes - to everything, even if the rules wouldn't normally allow it. Just do it and you'll discover what its like to play with someone who's imagination is completely uninhibited by adult social constructs, its fucking amazing."

I wish I could post the comments that followed that nugget of wisdom, but the person has blocked me. I shall however attempt to paraphrase from my addled memory "Playing with kids is fun, but they're all over the place - you will need to railroad them" Now I know i'm paraphrasing, but they actually used the word railroading. Someone actually suggested that railroading was not only a good idea, but necessary to make the game better. What the fuck?

We all know that railroading sucks, and  works  against player agency - a key ingredient in excellent-fun-times around the table. And of course I know that its important to structure games, and heck, I'd even say under certain circumstances (such as a time limited con game) that you might want to railroad your players to a satisfactory conclusion. But this is not that, so why do it?

Also, lets not confuse table  etiquette  with gameplay structuring, I  reprimand  my kids if they start to muck about, I pull them back into focus if they're distracted - but never ever ever - ever do I setup simplistic, linear and frankly boring problems for them to solve because their minds haven't been hammered into an adult way of thinking. They thrive in a sandbox, both imaginary and real, so take advantage of that.

So my response?

"Why play a  collaborative   storytelling game with some of the most inventive, creative, uninhibited people you will ever have the fortune of playing with, only to impose a whole bunch of shitty boundaries? Thats dumb."

And thats really all there is to it.

So if you're going to play with kids (you should by the way, its a blast) keep the structure loose, listen, prepare to say 'Yes' to everything, listen again, get some props, ask them to create fiction, involve them at every level and  remember that their imagination is 1000% more vivid and fertile than yours is  - despite what you might think, oh and listen some more. 

Sunday 5 July 2015

Armor Class is stupid.

Armor Class is really fucking stupid.

So I put on platemail, and I become harder to hit? Dummy. I know guys in heavy armor were surprisingly agile and fast, but putting on thick steel over gambeson just slows you down. It is great at stopping blows that do land from making you bleed and die, however.

So if armor is damage reduction, how do we hit someone? Melee combat is an exchange of blows*. Much like boxing, your looking for a series of telling blows that will earn you points. Or corpses. If we want to simulate that exchange both sides needs to roll. Static numbers won't do, because we need the winds of fate. So however you work out an attack roll, mirror it, then you've got a defence roll. A chance for the attack to land a blow, and the defender to turn it. Ever have players saying "Aww can't I parry it?" Not a problem anymore.

I changed the d20 mechanic to an Arnesonian roll–below–attribute system, so its sweet simplicity mirrored for a defender to roll below an attribute also. We can the parse the outcome and do something interesting with them. Win-Win. Win-Lose. Lose-Win. Lose-Lose. Plus there's crits with each roll (currently natural 1, no confirming)

Once you start doing all this, then you're looking a re-write of all the core systems you'd expect from a Medieval Fantasy RPG - not now mind you, another time.

*Not that i'd actually know, Im only lightly familiar with re-inactment. The closest I can get is watching the full contact melee's on youtube - and even these are blunt weapons with no kill strikes. On the other hand i'd remind myself that it also needs to be gameable and fun so essentially, fuck it.

Roll Below, yeah?

Like almost everyone and their nan in the DIY d&d scene, I've had a ruleset on the stove, bubbling away for some time now. I've been a little quiet with work, not meatspace gaming as much as i'd like and my PS4 has started to suck less and less of my time away - so I decided to begin the process of collecting all the various rules, hacks and add-ons that make our system tick.

I've dubbed it 'Roll-Below'. Its based on a bunch of stuff we've played over the years, plus its been in interested opportunity to scrap the shit we don't like and create something specifically for us, i've bullet pointed a sort of patch-note below for the major changes.

  • DC's and target numbers are gone (Im fucking lazy and stoned so less thinky the better). If you want to perform an action or do something, you roll a d20 and try to get it under your attribute. Under is a success, on or over a failure. 
  • HP are gone, everyone has one wound. Lose that wound and you have to roll on a serious Injury Table, assuming your Party survives or recovers you. (How many times can an ogre stab you in face before you decide enough is enough?)
  • When you attempt to wound someone with an attack, you make an attack Roll, they also make a Defence roll - different shit happens depending on whats rolled. (Combat is an exchange)
  • AC is gone, Armor is now damage reduction and provides advantage when defending against certain type of attacks. (Your armor doesn't stop you being hit, its stops you breaking out in sucking chest wounds)
  • Every weapon/shield has a 'unique attribute' that makes them effective in certain situations. (everyone likes shopping choices)
  • Classes are Warrior, Wizard, Thief Elf, Dwarf. (OSR roolz)
Its developed to be less a set of house rules, more a new system. I've also put some hours into making it fairly compatible with existing content for other rules-sets. Stuff doesn't directly convert into the system but i've got some good tools letting you run content without needing stats. For a long time i've been generating stuff at the table so thats really just a natural evolution of that habit.

With all the new stuff, were still playtesting. But its all pretty solid. I might make an open call for people to check it out over Roll20, get some wider thoughts and feedback - Give me a shout if that sounds like something that would float your boat.